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back to article US Air Force beats off competition in NSA hacking fight

A four-day hacking competition run by the National Security Agency (NSA) to find the top military system designers and administrators has awarded the 13th annual Cyber Defense Exercise (CDX) prize to a team from the US Air Force Academy. "CDX offers an unparalleled opportunity for some of the nation's top students to showcase …

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I can be paranoid.

Is giving teenagers complex scenarios and classified military intelligence a good idea, or should we wait until they reach the age of 20?

Of course I understand there is limitations to such contests, but when you train the minds of teenagers in cyber intelligence, it has both good and bad consequences. The good is we have very well educated teenagers, but the bad could be we have extremely well trained 20 somethings out of work and looking for work anywhere.

Still, someone has to know it, and someone has to do it, so I do give them respect. I do hope they bulk up however, because by looking at them, it appears just about anything could be beaten out of them.

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Black Helicopters

Re: I can be paranoid.

I hacked my way around a copy protection scheme in a Broderbund software package when I was 15, using one afternoon and my only information was what I had gleaned from reading computer magazines. This was in '86 or '87, well before the Internet and probably 10 years before I got my first modem.

I stopped there, but supposing I'd gone on to develop my skillz - would you rather have me at 18 at an academy where you have some way of steering me in the right direction, or sitting in my basement, having too much time on my hand because I have to wait to get older?

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Re: I can be paranoid.

For the US military academies at least, they likely aren't going to be looking for a job for another 6-10 years, because they're going to be employed as officers in the military. These aren't kids gathered from the local internet cafe, they've been vetted and they signed up for four years of school and another 5-8 of service already. Individuals vary, but these are the least likely group of people to be using their training for malicious purposes of just about any teenagers you could find.

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Re: I can be paranoid.

"This was in '86 or '87, well before the Internet"

Uh ... I'd been involved with what we now call "the internet" for nearly two decades by 1987.

"and probably 10 years before I got my first modem."

By 1987, modems were a normal part of life 'round these here parts. My first "home unit" was an acoustic-coupled variation in 1974-ish.

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FAIL

Re: I can be paranoid.

"Is giving teenagers complex scenarios and classified military intelligence a good idea, or should we wait until they reach the age of 20?"

What on earth are you on about? How does this exercise hand them classified intelligence in the first place. They're protecting a dummy network; not one populated with anything of value.

"but when you train the minds of teenagers in cyber intelligence, it has both good and bad consequences."

That's massively bigoted. There is nothing that makes a teenager more likely to go rogue than anyone else.

You seem fine with allowing teenagers to join the grunts, be handed automatic weapons and suck a bullet in the face for your nation, but you don't want them learning anything useful, in case they aren't trustworthy.

Unbelievable. Do you realise just how many of the people guarding your arse and keeping your gas prices nice and cheap are under drinking age?

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Holmes

Re: I can be paranoid.

Hate to burst your bubble, but I've had 19 year old weapons crewmembers loading nukes on USAF aircraft, maintaining said nukes in the WSA (weapons storage area), and helping aircrews with sensitive intelligence for attack planning, let alone driving tanks, launching aircraft, etc, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can be paranoid.

The world wide web came in the 90s.

Before that there was Bulletin board systems and FTP using US Robotics modems.

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Coat

Re: I can be paranoid.

Quite.

Apparently, in Vietnam, the average age of the combat soldier...

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Coat

Re: I can be paranoid.

@Psyx: Did your blood just start boiling too much to continue reading?

I failed at alluding that the first part was sarcasm, I should of stated that better when I mentioned I understood there was limitations to such contests. Now, when you state that I "don't want them learning anything useful", you apparently missed the part where I expressed I don't see a problem with it being that someone has to know it, and do it.

Where and when in time did I state I was fine with teenagers getting shot in the face?

"There is nothing that makes a teenager more likely to go rogue than anyone else."

There is one thing, lack of real world experience. When anyone, not just teenagers, just read and write all day at any job, one can loose interest in the reasons that they are there. When you have become warn in, conditioned, even just older, you understand that is just the way it is. However, many younger minds are much more ambitious and willing to seek new venues. They just haven't had the real experiences yet to fully understand what they are told, and more importantly, what they swear by. But again, someone has to know it, someone has to do it, so why not give them a chance. I'm stating that with honesty.

Now, surprisingly (extremely to me), you didn't call me out for the part of my post I was hesitant to even state...their body mass. It is not always the case that more muscle can sustain more damage, not always. In the end, I personally believe it goes from being honor, to just sheer will. I have been told that under extreme conditions, no words can be remember to be spoken and only images remain.

As far as your homage to the oil business, good job.

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Re: I can be paranoid.

"Where and when in time did I state I was fine with teenagers getting shot in the face?"

Well, you don't make mention of teenagers serving the armed forces in capacities other than the one you complain about, leaving the reader to assume that you're ok with those. That and my blood had already hit boiling point due to the complete lack of clues that you might have been being sarcy.

"There is one thing, lack of real world experience."

In my experience, that makes them more loyal and patriotic, rather than less so. Speaking for myself, I was naive and fervent at that age, and bent over backwards to serve my nation; never for a moment planning to do anything else with the next 20 years of my life. Older people are far more jaded and less reliable, in my experience. Just try asking me to catch a bullet for my country now, and you'd be told to get knotted!

As regards their size; Air Force guys don't have to be huge. They are being trained and hired for their skills not brawn, and only the USMC has the 'we're Marines first, and also trained for other stuff' regimen. And it doesn't matter how big you are: No amount of muscle stops a rifle bullet. Frankly, being a smaller target is a better defence than being 6'2".

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@km123 (was: Re: I can be paranoid.)

"The Web" != "The Internet".

BBSs, FTP and USR modems are also post Internet.

I actually own a Honeywell computer that was one of the first 20 IMPs on DARPANET. I first ran across her when I was at SAIL. I managed to get my hands on her prior to her being scrapped about three years ago. She runs, kinda, but is in need of a little TLC, and is next on the restoration list. See this post for more:

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/611721

Might want to read this old post, too:

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1679598

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Anonymous Coward

"cyber skills"

Effing double speak. Misuse the word "hacker" and dream up the daft "cyber skills". cksckrs. I has cyber skills. I has donut. I has fat. I has USAian stupidity. I has fear. I has death.

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"Forget volleyball, there are systems to crack"

I assume volleyball is a reference to the documentary "Top Gun" (1986), featuring a young Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer before he got fat.

Given that you are referencing primary sources, it pays to be accurate. Maverick flew F-14's for the Navy, not US Air Force. Indeed, the TOPGUN Academy (actual name) is run by the US Navy. The US Navy was said to have been integral in influencing the production of the recruitment video...I mean documentary.

So I can only assume the Air Force won cos their guys weren't playing volleyball, unlike their Navy counterparts.

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Re: "Forget volleyball, there are systems to crack"

Yes their guys were off world exploring the universe through the Stargate.

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Childcatcher

13 Annual?

From the looks of it that means at the first one the current winners were, um, would 2 years old be too kind?

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"cyber skills"

Anybody who uses the above phrase seriously has no concept of the reality of modern computer and networking infrastructure and can usually be safely ignored.

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Black Helicopters

White gloves?

Why the gloves? To avoid leaving fingerprints? Sweaty palms? For soft, one-handed, surfing?

Any thoughts?

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@NoOnions (was: Re: White gloves?)

"Academy" is the key-word. The gloves are part of the school uniform.

The poor young bastards have no idea who their parents are. They have been "sent off to school", so the parental Buffy & Biff units can socialize, without the inconvenient little packages getting into the way of partying.

Quite Victorian, don't you think? Maybe us Yanks are catching up! :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @NoOnions (was: White gloves?)

I think the 6 people I've know to graduate from various military academies would beg to differ in your opinion of their parents. If their parents had any faults, it would be that one was overseas while the other one tried to hold the strings together at home.

If I were to feel sorry for their upbringing, it would be because they didn't get to see as much of the civilian world as I could think would have been healthy for them. But to say that they are bastards and frame their parents as uncaring socialites is offensive at best.

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@AC 09:05 (was: Re: @NoOnions (was: White gloves?))

Says an anonymous coward.

In this scenario "bastards" is a euphemism, you oaf.

Bottom line: why bring kids into the world if you have no control over when/if you are capable of actually parenting them? Is it an ego thing? Poor bastards.

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Re: @NoOnions (was: White gloves?)

"poor young bastards" indeed. Googling confirms that, if you're in the band anyway, you get to take off your gloves (as they would interfere with your performance, I'm guessing). Apparently typing on a keyboard is not considered harder than pressing a few valves on a trumpet.

Never mind that a uniform should allow one to have a clean look. Gloves and short sleeves just looks silly.

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Big Brother

"NSA's Information Assurance Directorate"

Love the word 'Directorate'. It sounds so.... KGB.

обеспечения безопасности информации дирекции.

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Anonymous Coward

Public 'sploits

Sorry, maybe I'm getting the wrong end of the stick, but how does creating a virtual network that doesn't fall to public exploits measure any level of talent? You could legitimately down the latest version of Ubuntu or Windows 7/8 and throw that on a couple of servers, or alternatively, if you have to work with an existing network, just firewall the usual suspects and EMET/grsec/SELinux the hell out of everything. As for the logging, all I have to say is lol. Training the next generation of hate-filled, bitter sysadmins, more than leaders.

Anonymous, because I don't want to get metasploited by the NSA's 1337 h4ck3r team with their m4dsk1llz.

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How in the name of Xenu, did the Foetus in the bottom picture manage to get medals before his testicles descended?

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They are not medals. They are merit badges. The foetus is a scout.

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'ello sir I'm a friendly boyscout.

It's nickel a job, Can I wash your car, mow your lawn, Bastionise the servers in your DMZ?

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Holmes

Academy Awards

While at the Academy, they can win various awards and achievements, and some entitle them to wear a ribbon. Besides the Paratroop badge, I don't think any crossover to active duty.

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Easy win for USAF

So the NSA hold a hacking competition, but only invited a few public sector mates?

That's not a competition. Hopefully next time they'll remember to invite the Norks, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Israelis, or any manner of East European crooks. Or perhaps pick on one of those as the competition location and invite all the others to do their best.

Maybe choose Iran as the "location", and offer specific prizes for conventional infrastructure disablement, military and nuclear foulups, state secrets revealed, intellectual property "liberated". And most importantly, a gold plated award for hacking Iran's single copy of Photoshop to compromise its functionality in a manner even more amusing than Iran's current use of the programme.

I'll bet USAF don't come top in that competition.

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Facepalm

Re: Easy win for USAF

These kinds of contests have been done in the real internet but the fallout can be...unpleasant. The sandbox

is there for pretty much the same reason artillery practice is held on artillery ranges rather than, say, downtown

Hull.

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Re: Easy win for USAF

"pretty much the same reason artillery practice is held on artillery ranges rather than, say, downtown Hull."

You don't think choosing Hull rather negates your argument?

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Windows

The kids today eh?

They look so YOUNG!

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Facepalm

This was a College Competition

...and I suppose you firmly believe all youth sports teams should compete with professionals with no holds barred?

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Re: This was a College Competition

... Sorry this was in response to ledswinger's post..

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Re: This was a College Competition

"... Sorry this was in response to ledswinger's post.."

Ah. I suspect this was the "not signed in bug" whereby if you attempt to post when not signed in, and then login, it dumps your reply as a new post, to the confusion of one and all? Get if fixed Regtards!

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Just remember

This was more about publicity and FUD than it was about any serious infrastructure protection or compromise. It's at best a distraction and at least a recruiting function for the NSA.

Do you really think a few service academy cadets could outdo the best the NSA could throw at something like this?

It's no different than playing college sports, it's a way to get into the professional leagues. The various government agencies do not have a problem with acquiring talent or resources, they have a problem with politics and where critical decisions are made. Some of the best and brightest people I know were NCOs and general enlisted. It's nice to see that the officers are catching up with the brains they command.

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Civil Air Patrol Cadets

Since it's not mentioned, this is a picture of two Civil Air Patrol cadets, one a Sargent and the other a Lt. The CAP operates as an auxiliary to the US Air Force, usually working Search and Rescue and a number of other missions. Years ago when I was in, the technology was related to operation of radio equipment (direction finders, comms equipment).

No clue on the glove...

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Civil Air Patrol Cadets

Yes, oops. The image seems to have confused a few people, so I've whipped it out for now.

C.

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Mushroom

Young holding Bombs etc.

That's old news.

There were many teenagers during a thing called WW2 ,loading Bombs ,dropping Bombs , shooting Machine Guns ,Rifles,Bazookas etc.

I have a Brother who had Two Machine Guns (Point 5 calibre) that he used to shoot at Japanese up in the Bouganville area. He was 19 at the time.

People liked teenagers shooting guns and dropping Bombs then.

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Coffee/keyboard

I'm Surprised

Not one comment about how on the left side of the pond "beating off" means something else...

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